We spent two days on the Amtrak train, heading west through the hills, over rivers, past amber waves of grain."
Percy feels like someone is watching them and waiting to pounce.
His name and mugshot are all over the mortal newspapers; he's a prime suspect in his mother's disappearance. A picture of Percy getting off the Greyhound bus right before it exploded appears everywhere. Smelly Gabe has a cash reward out for Percy.
While Grover sleeps, Percy tells Annabeth about the latest dream he had about the cold voice in the chasm.
Annabeth says that that voice doesn't sound like Hades's voice and that chasm doesn't sound like Hades's house. And why would Hades want the master bolt if he already has it?
Annabeth tells Percy that he can't barter with Hades for his mom. Hades is too powerful and too greedy.
Annabeth tells Percy about her dad, who she loathes.
When she arrived at his doorstep in a golden cradle, carried down by a wind from Mount Olympus, her dad thought it was the biggest inconvenience. He tried to get Athena to take Annabeth back. Athena explained that the mortal parent has to raise the half-blood child. Annabeth's dad got married when she was five and had two kids with his new wife. Her stepmom hated her and wouldn't let her play with her step-siblings. They totally ignored her, and when monsters attacked her, they made her feel like the biggest threat and disaster that ever lived. Finally, Annabeth ran away from home and made her way to Camp Half-Blood.
Annabeth is really sad, so Percy decides not to ask anymore questions about her past.
The money they got from turning Gladiola in bought them train tickets as far as Denver, Colorado.
They make one stop in St. Louis with a three-hour lay over.
Being a lover of architecture, Annabeth really wants to check out the St. Louis Gateway Arch during this lay over. The Arch is a national memorial, officially called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial; it honors Thomas Jefferson, Chicago, and pioneers for helping with the Westward Expansion. It is over 600 feet tall.
Annabeth tells them all about the Arch and how it was built.
Percy and Grover munch on jelly beans, and Percy thinks it might smell like monsters. Grover assures him that underground air is smelly like that – no worries.
They decide to go up to take an elevator up to the very top of the Arch.
They are squeezed into an elevator with a very large woman and her Chihuahua.
She's curious about why they are alone.
Percy muses, "At the top of the Arch, the observation deck reminded me of a tin can with carpeting. Rows of tiny windows looked out over the city on one side and the river on the other" (13.92).
A park ranger announces that it's closing time.
There's no room for Percy on the elevator down to the lobby. He tells Annabeth and Grover to go without him.
Percy is left on the observation deck with the big lady, her Chihuahua, a family, and a guard.
The big lady suddenly has a forked tongue, and the Chihuahua is not a dog, but a Chimera.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Echidna, the Mother of Monsters, and her son, Chimera.
Chimera has "the head of a lion with a blood-caked mane, the body and hooves, of a giant goat, and a serpent for a tail, a ten-foot-long diamondback growing right out of its shaggy behind" (13.114).
Chimera attacks Percy, and the rattlesnake tail gets a good bite out of Percy's leg. Chimera blasts a hole into the side of the observation deck.
Percy drops his sword through this hole.
Echidna laughs and taunts Percy, saying that if he were a real hero, he would jump out of that whole and dive 600 feet down into the muddy Mississippi River below.
This is exactly what Percy does, asking for his father's help just as he leaps.